Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Eric Edholm executes a division-by-division assessment of the 2023 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone -- picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. Below is the NFC South report card.
- Texas RB Bijan Robinson (No. 8 overall)
- Syracuse OG Matthew Bergeron (No. 38)
- Ohio State DE Zach Harrison (No. 75)
- Utah CB Clark Phillips III (No. 113)
- Alabama S DeMarcco Hellams (No. 224)
- South Carolina C Jovaughn Gwyn (No. 225)
With the selection of Bijan Robinson, the Falcons now have top-10 picks at receiver (Drake London), tight end (Kyle Pitts) and running back. Robinson is a special talent, so much so that we can't even gripe that the Falcons already had a young 1,000-yard rusher (Tyler Allgeier) on the roster. During his Texas career, Robinson's receiving ability was underutilized, and I think he can do for the Falcons what Marshall Faulk did for the Rams years ago. He's likely to thrive in Arthur Smith's run game, and the Falcons are assembling a good offensive line in front of Robinson. That unit was bolstered by the second-round pick of Matthew Bergeron, one of the best run-blocking O-line prospects in this year's class. He was a college tackle but might project best to guard, where the Falcons have an open starting job on the left side. I expect Bergeron to be the favorite coming into camp. Seventh-rounder Jovaughn Gwyn is a quality run blocker, as well, although he's undersized and likely will need to play center. Zach Harrison was the Falcons' first defensive pick, and it comes at a spot of perennial need. Harrison has never been a big sack producer (13 in four seasons at Ohio State) but he has been disruptive with active hands (five forced fumbles, seven batted passes the past two seasons), good length and nice athletic traits. The Falcons didn't address the secondary until Round 4, but they found two excellent values in Clark Phillips III and DeMarcco Hellams. There are some decent nickel back options on the team, but Phillips has an excellent chance to win that job eventually with great instincts and quickness, and a track record of ball production. Hellams is a solid, fairly versatile safety who lacks great athletic ability (namely speed) but maximizes it with good instincts and a knack for arriving at the ball on time.
- Alabama QB Bryce Young (No. 1 overall)
- Mississippi WR Jonathan Mingo (No. 39)
- Oregon edge DJ Johnson (No. 80)
- N.C. State OG Chandler Zavala (No. 114)
- Florida State DB Jammie Robinson (No. 145)
There are no guarantees in the NFL, and the Panthers traded four picks along with a quality receiver to spend the first overall pick on a quarterback whose small frame set a historic precedent. But Bryce Young possesses the rare processing ability and field vision to become an excellent player. The durability questions likely won’t go away until he’s proven he can play a few full seasons, but Young’s pocket feel and decent athleticism can help him avoid hits. One of Young's best traits emerged last season, when he covered up for a surprisingly high number of problems on Alabama's offense -- and he likely will be asked to do something similar for Frank Reich as a rookie, given that Young doesn't yet have all the complementary pieces around him in Carolina. Jonathan Mingo will help at receiver, but how soon? His physical gifts are pretty clear, but we thought Mingo was a bit of a reach, even in a weaker WR class. Having worked with a more streamlined route tree at Ole Miss, Mingo might require time to adjust. He's also built similarly to many of the Panthers' other receivers. DJ Johnson went about a round too soon; Carolina might have been able to snag him with the fourth-round pick (No. 132) that was given to Pittsburgh in the trade up to get him in Round 3. Johnson emerged last season after moonlighting at tight end for Oregon but remains something of a project, and he'll turn 25 in October. If he can hone his elite athletic traits, Johnson could develop into a situational rusher this season. We loved the Panthers' final two selections. Fourth-rounder Chandler Zavala has some durability concerns, given his long medical history, but he looked like one of the most capable guards in this draft class. He's a tireless worker and strong finisher in the run game and will provide insurance for Austin Corbett, who is coming off a torn ACL. Jammie Robinson is a versatile DB who potentially fills needs at both safety and the nickel spot. Although his size is underwhelming, Robinson brings a passionate, urgent play style to a secondary that has more flexibility now.
- Clemson DT Bryan Bresee (No. 29 overall)
- Notre Dame edge Isaiah Foskey (No. 40)
- TCU RB Kendre Miller (No. 71)
- Old Dominion OG Nick Saldiveri (No. 103)
- Fresno State QB Jake Haener (No. 127)
- Minnesota S Jordan Howden (No. 146)
- Wake Forest WR A.T. Perry (No. 195)
The Saints focused on upgrading the front seven with their first two selections, then turned to help the offensive side with most of the remainder. Bryan Bresee was a tricky evaluation in that he possesses all the tools to be an excellent defensive lineman but had spotty production in college and carries a concerning injury history. But Bresee's hot motor and positional versatility, along with the surprising pop and explosion in his play, give him an excellent chance to thrive, with better health. Isaiah Foskey also was tough to scout, but for different reasons. He's an athletic marvel -- nearly the perfect prototype for how you want an athletic edge to be built. But his tape was incomplete, with flashes of brilliance but too many stalled-out rushes. Foskey plays with full intensity, has had good sack production and even has been an adept kick-blocker, but he might need time to add pass-rush tricks to his bag. Finding RB help was important, given Alvin Kamara's off-field issues, and Kendre Miller was an interesting choice. He's a bit upright in his run style but has good thickness and sneaky wiggle and always seems to be falling forward. Miller could be an excellent complement as a first- and second-down back and can carry the load, as he showed in a gutsy effort (29 carries) vs. Kansas State. The Saints already appear to be planning for life after Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz, and Nick Saldiveri could help fill one of their roles at guard. He spent the majority of his time at Old Dominion at right tackle but might be more effective inside, where his range and recovery ability might not be as concerning. So, which are we going with: "Fresnola" or "Fresneaux State?" That's the question after the Saints drafted Jake Haener to back up Bulldogs legend Derek Carr. Either way, the QB room is vastly improved, and Haener's smart, focused, detailed approach could make him an excellent No. 2. Jordan Howden has solid backup written all over him on defense but could turn into a quality special-teamer. A.T. Perry was a nice late steal. He's a bit inconsistent catching the ball and doesn't have great play strength, but he does have the ball-tracking ability and red-zone skill to push Tre'Quan Smith for a job.
- Pittsburgh DT Calijah Kancey (No. 19 overall)
- North Dakota State OG Cody Mauch (No. 48)
- Louisville edge YaYa Diaby (No. 82)
- Pittsburgh LB SirVocea Dennis (No. 153)
- Purdue TE Payne Durham (No. 171)
- Kansas State DB Josh Hayes (No. 181)
- Nebraska WR Trey Palmer (No. 191)
- Eastern Michigan edge Jose Ramirez (No. 196)
The Bucs had to address the defensive line, but the first-round selection of Calijah Kancey was a surprise to me. He's a cat-quick interior penetrator with unusual balance and tenacity, but he has to win with those traits in order to overcome his extremely compact frame and lack of length. How will he hold up against powerful guards in a phone booth? That's the key question; Kancey's limitations could slim down his role a bit. Offensive tackle was arguably Tampa's biggest need coming in, and that's the college position of Cody Mauch. However, the Bucs smartly view him as a guard, where his lack of length can be covered up and his terrific athletic traits can be unlocked. He'll learn a lot playing next to Ryan Jensen. The Bucs might spin the OL wheel a few times before it's settled, but one possible solution (with Jensen back at center) is to move Tristan Wirfs to left tackle and Luke Goedeke to right tackle while letting Mauch and others (like Matt Feiler, Nick Leverett, Robert Hainsey and Aaron Stinnie) slug it out for the two guard spots. The defense-heavy theme of the draft carried on, as the Bucs added outside rushers YaYa Diaby and Jose Ramirez, a second-level defender in SirVocea Dennis and help on the back end in Josh Hayes. Diaby was a one-year wonder for the Cardinals but has the length, burst and sneaky power to factor in at multiple techniques. Ramirez is more of a true edge rusher, with quickness and tenacity, but his lack of mass and length will significantly hinder his run defense. Dennis is instinctive, rangy and a strong wrap tackler as a possible Devin White replacement; at the very least, he profiles well for special teams. Hayes' size likely puts him in the slot, but his speed allows him to run step for step with receivers. The team's two offensive selections on Day 2 came later, although both Payne Durham and Trey Palmer caught my eye at the Senior Bowl. Durham has the spirited play style and underneath receiving ability to make a good reserve tight end, and Palmer's speed could be a secret weapon for this offense, likely out of the slot.